2018 TIMPANI Toy Study

Read a transcript of the 2018 TIMPANI video.

Play is the fundamental way children prepare for the future. When children create a make-believe world, build a tower of blocks, or race a friend to the top of a hill, they acquire social and intellectual abilities needed to be successful in school and adulthood. Nearly all meaningful play includes toys. A single, engaging toy can transform a child’s play from simple to symbolic, from repetitive to inventive, from solitary to social.

The Center for Early Childhood Education has a keen interest in studying how young children play. While there is much research on children’s play, few studies have looked at how children interact with toys in their play. To address this research gap, the Center conducts an annual TIMPANI (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination) Toy Study under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith and Julia DeLapp. The ongoing empirical study looks at how young children in natural settings play with a variety of toys and identifies toys that best engage children in intellectual, creative, social, and verbal interactions in preschool classrooms.

TIMPANI Toy for 2018
The highest-scoring toy for the 2018 study was Bottle Clix (now sold as Magz Clix) by Magz®. Learn more about the 2018 study.

Bottle Clix, aka Magz Clix: A set of colorful, magnetic, bottle-shaped pieces

A major goal of the TIMPANI toy study is to train students to conduct behavioral research. Students have been responsible for conducting preliminary research on toys, piloting the instrument, videotaping toy use, and coding videos. To date, twenty-four students from sociology, psychology, social work, early childhood education, English, and elementary education have participated as student researchers. The undergraduate students involved in the 2018 study included:
Allison Lundy
Dominique McLean
Morgan Winship
Nicole Green

TIMPANI Toy for 2017: Animal Kingdom Mega Pack Playset
TIMPANI Toy for 2016: Plus-Plus
TIMPANI Toy for 2015: Wooden Cash Register
TIMPANI Toy for 2014: Paint and Easel; Hot Wheels Cars
TIMPANI Toy for 2013: Magna-Tiles; My First Railroad
TIMPANI Toy for 2012: DUPLO Bricks
TIMPANI Toy for 2011: TINKERTOY Construction Set
TIMPANI Toy for 2010: Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs
The 2018 TIMPANI Press Conference was held on December 4th, 2018.

ECSU study puts educational toys to the test,” NBC News Connecticut, 12/4/18
Eastern’s toy of the year really stacks up,” The Chronicle, 12/5/18

ECSU researchers name animal figurines top toy for preschoolers,” Norwich Bulletin, 12/6/17
ECSU chooses plastic animals as 2017 toy of the year,” NBC News Connecticut, 12/6/17
And the toy of the year is…” Fox News Connecticut, 12/6/17
ECSU reveals 2017 TIMPANI toy of the year,” News 8 WTNH, 12/6/17

TIMPANI toy selection inspires imagination, thinking, learning,” Norwich Bulletin, 12/12/16
ECSU TIMPANI toy study 2015,” Wayne Norman Show (radio interview), 12/13/16
Award-winning toy has a Danish twist,” Willimantic Chronicle, 12/13/16

3 ways schools can incorporate play into innovative instruction,” Education Dive, 9/21/15
ECSU study shows children get back to basics with play,” Norwich Bulletin, 12/7/15
Researchers look into most educational toys,” WFSB Hartford, 12/7/15 (This story was also rebroadcast in cities across the U.S., including New Orleans, LA; Fort Meyers, FL; Bozeman and Butte MO; Polluck, TX; and Springfield, MA.)
“ECSU TIMPANI Toy Study 2015”, Wayne Norman Show (radio interview), 12/8/15
Our View: Don’t lose sight of the simple things in life,” Norwich Bulletin (Editorial), 12/13/15

Selling gender: Exploiting stereotypes for profit,” Al Jazeera America,” 11/30/14
Hot Wheels, easel named top toys in ECSU study,” Norwich Bulletin, 12/1/14
“ECSU study finds some old favorites are still the most popular toys,” WTNH, 12/2/14

Traditional DUPLO Wins Award as LEGO Expands to New Products, Classrooms and Girls,” Connecticut by the Numbers, 1/10/13
Tiles, train chosen as TIMPANI best toys for 2013,” Norwich Bulletin,” 12/4/13

Eastern names its best 2012 toy pick,” Norwich Bulletin, 11/16/12
In Time For Christmas, Science Toys For Girls Aim To Close Gender Gap,” International Business Times, 12/15/12

BIRTH TO THREE: For creative play, TINKERTOYS trump technology,” The Register-Guard, 12/5/11

“Experts say wooden toys nurture imagination,” HTNP, 12/2/10

The TIMPANI toy study does not consider, nor does it test, the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy studied. Neither the Center for Early Childhood Education nor Eastern Connecticut State University is liable for any mishaps related to the use of toys mentioned in study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.


For additional information on the TIMPANI toy study, contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0885.

Other research conducted by the Center